Drinking a daily dose of Turkish coffee is an essential part of life in Istanbul, and the city’s popular coffee shops are always brimming with people. Whether you enjoy it sade (with no sugar) or şekerli (with sugar), the bold taste of this coffee is not easily forgotten.
There is an old Turkish adage that goes “A single cup of Turkish coffee is remembered for 40 years”. With a magnificent history that stretches back to the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century, the art of preparing frothy Turkish coffee is a true phenomenon. Specially made with finely ground beans in a long-handled cezve (metal pot), Turkish coffee has a uniquely strong taste. Besides its thick and intense flavour that startles first-timers, Turkish coffee has a cultural significance that ranges from its use in fortune-telling to consolidating marriage arrangements. Here is a list of the top places in Istanbul where you can enjoy authentic Turkish coffee, as well as the conversation that comes with it.
Fazıl Bey’s Turkish Coffee offers a traditional coffee experience in the vibrant Kadıköy Bazaar. Bringing Istanbul locals their daily hit of caffeine since 1923, the popular store is one of the city’s oldest and has several locations. The cosy two-storey shop has shiny antique coffee machines that grind and roast its speciality brand. Playing songs that capture the essence of Turkish folk music, this café serves a wide selection of coffee flavours, including more experimental options with mastic or cardamom.
Passing by the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü, you will smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee coming from one of the corner streets. It was here where Mehmet Efendi started to sell roasted coffee beans after inheriting the store from his father in 1871 – a legacy that continues today. The small yet lovely shop here is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi’s central branch, and the long queue permanently found outside speaks to the quality of the coffee within. Watch the staff pour hot coffee into paper cups from behind the window as you wait for your delicious serving of authentic Turkish coffee. If you can’t seem to get enough of the taste, packages of its freshly ground coffee are easily found in markets, online and in its stores.
Located on a narrow sidestreet in Beyoğlu, Mandabatmaz maintains its long-standing reputation as a popular spot in Istanbul to enjoy a cup of authentic Turkish coffee. Its name translates to “the buffalo will not sink”, referring to the extra foam on top of its coffee, which is considered to be an indicator of its good taste. Inside, the open kitchen allows an exquisite fragrance to fill the small shop at all times. And the café’s signature brewing technique, which consists of adding hot water to the pan instead of cold, has been practised since 1967.
Şark Kahvesi is a true classic in Istanbul and has operated for over half a century in the historical Grand Bazaar. Once a haunt of the bazaar’s esnafs (artisans), it is now a hotspot for tourists taking shopping breaks. The interior is nostalgic, complete with wooden tables and chairs, colourful Anatolian tablecloths, antiques and black-and-white framed photos. The coffee here is cooked in sand fire and brass cezve pots. Located on one of the Grand Bazaar’s busiest streets, this coffee shop is a perfect place to people-watch and relax with a cappuccino and a turkish delight before continuing to explore the stores.
Bebek Kahve is a charming coffeehouse situated near the waterfront in the upscale Bebek neighbourhood. Offering unparalleled vistas of the Bosphorus, this café has attracted many regulars during its 65 years. The quality coffee and prime location mean you may even see a Turkish celebrity here from time to time. With wooden chairs and simple decor, this coffee shop has a laid-back style, though prices are on the higher end. Order some eggs and crepes for breakfast, before kicking back with a cup of coffee to enjoy the view.
Named after the 18th-century French poet and writer Pierre Loti – a lover of Istanbul who used to live in the Eyüp district – this coffeehouse sits atop a hill with marvellous views of Sarayburnu and the Golden Horn. The staff here wear traditional Ottoman garments and serve coffee in embellished cups. The open area on the hill outside the café, which can accommodate up to 1,400 people, is a favourite of tourists, especially in the summer months.
A favourite in the Anatolian region, the historical Tarihi Bagdat Kurukahvecisi blends Turkish and Aegean flavours and offers many varieties of Turkish coffee with mastic, saffron or ice cream. This well-lit café has a lively atmosphere and plays Greek music. Also, its mastic lokums (turkish delight) and paste, obtained from the island of Chios in Greece, are available to buy in small packages for those who want to enjoy it at home.